I regard the scrape on the back of my hand.  Blood still slowly oozes from it.  I raise it to my mouth and lick the blood away, savoring the taste.

The flick of a finger summons my scrying mirror, and I examine my reflection.  Leathers dirty, hair disarrayed, and a darkening bruise gracing one cheekbone.  I rub the bruise and grin.  Just-fought or just-fucked...either looked good on me.

Flexing the leg flung over the arm of my throne, I command the mirror to show me the marketplace I had recently departed.  My image fades, replaced by one far less pleasing: the hero with his sidekick, the self righteous with the sycophantic, congratulating himself on another victory over his evil brother.

How little he understands.

I throw back my head and laugh until the reverberations of my voice echo from every corner of the Halls of War, until it sounds as if the whole world is laughing with me.

Give rage a face.  Grant destruction a form.  Name war Ares.  After all, evil is so much easier to hate when it's external.

My little brother fails to see that every blow is an offering, every word of hate a prayer.  I trace the bruise again.  Few can offer such exquisite tribute, and, ultimately, power is what it's all about.

I wave the mirror on to another location, and find myself leaning forward.

The tall woman spins, long hair flying wildly around her, and plunges her sword through the guts an attacker.  I bite back a moan.

My lovely warrior princess...  No one can rage as she does—lesser mortals burn themselves out.  And such rage is sweeter than ambrosia.

A beautiful leaping kick downs the last two attackers.  Battling now for calm, she stands with her shoulders slumped.  She is telling herself that she fought for justice, denying the joy she felt as flesh yielded to steel, denying the incandescent rage that fuels her spirit...thinking she denies me.

She never grasped the difference between tactics and strategy.

Ah, my precious acolyte, fight for me, or fight me—they're the same.  Ever the same, for every warrior worships at my altar whether they will it or no.  So win all your battles.  I win the war.

Her annoying blond conscience enters the scene, and I let the image fade.  As I slouch back into my throne, I give a satiated smile to my reflection, who courteously returns the expression and preens slightly.

Noticing that my hand is still bleeding, I bring it to my mouth once more: coppery life, with the promise of death as it flows free.

Death is such a mortal apprehension: they think I want them dead.  But why would I ever give such strong souls over into the keeping of my so dear uncle?

That which is mine I keep.  So come, my beloved enemies, come melt into me.